We in the (still somewhat vaguely Christian) West have long been told that the Three Wise Men visited the newly born Jesus, when Mary, Joseph and baby were forced to shelter in a stable in Bethlehem, in the then-Roman province of Judea. However, according to this year’s Christmas Irish Times editorial (‘Christmas 2015: A humanitarian challenge to us all’, December 24th, 2015), said stable was in fact located in the “West Bank” – a region so named as it is west of the nation of Jordan!
No, the Irish Times does not say “what is now the West Bank,” a qualification the editorial writer(s) nonetheless felt they could afford for the place from which the Three Wise Men travelled. Surely the latter was a rather less vital piece of information to the themed narrative of Christmas? The answer may relate to the fact that the Irish Times has long favoured the Arab-Palestinian narrative, even to the point of open unashamed advocacy. It would seem this impartial propensity extends to the white-washing of the Jewish connection to Israel and/or the Middle East (Abraham it would seem was first and foremost “a wandering Aramean,” while the Sea of Galilee oddly becomes the “Syrian Sea”) – other than perhaps indirectly evoking the tyranny of Herod as a parallel of today’s Israel, closing off Jerusalem to Jesus.
Indeed, despite the Irish Times’ heavy-handed moralising over migrants who are supposedly fleeing the war-torn Middle East, but most nonetheless prioritise passing through numerous safe-havens to access the wealth of Germany, the ever-liberal Irish Times could not even afford a word or two for the suffering the Middle East’s Christians, which are persecuted both in times of war and peace, and have been targeted by Jihadis to devastating effect for merely celebrating Christmas. Below is an extract:
[…] The Christmas story begins with a displaced couple from Galilee finding there is no room at the inn in Bethlehem. There they are visited by wise men who travel from what is now Iraq across desert, rock and snow to a humble, temporary dwelling on the West Bank, and in the words of TS Eliot find :
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
This family is soon forced by the murderous plans of a cruel tyrant to seek refuge in Egypt. Even when they return, Saint Matthew’s Gospel recounts, it is not safe for them to settle near Jerusalem and they move once again to Nazareth. Indeed, before the drawing of modern political borders in the Middle East in the 20th century, the hymn-writer John Greenleaf Whittier placed Christ’s life story “beside the Syrian sea”.
From the very beginning, the Bible is a shared story of forced exile, asylum and refugees. It is a story that begins with Abraham, a wandering Aramean, and that continues with exile in Egypt and in Babylon. Yet it always remains a story of hope and return, of compassion and love, of freedom and long yearning for peace and justice. […]
At the time Jesus lived, there was a vicious war going on against Roman imperialism in Judea. Thousands of anti-Roman Jews were crucified. Trying to allege that Jesus was victimized by anyone but the Romans makes no historical sense and is the sort of blood libel that anti-Semites indulge in. This attempt to turn Jesus into a persecuted Palestinian is in line with that tradition.
Quite so JD – the effective white-washing of Jewish history is almost as offensive as Holocaust Denial, for it attempts to wash away the identity of a persecuted people, and equally the sins of the Western and Islamic worlds against them, which peaked with the Holocaust.
This sort of thing gets in everywhere. It makes me grit my teeth whenever people – *especially people in churches, who should know better * talk about ‘Palestine’ and ‘the west bank’ when speaking of Jesus (Yeshua, Yehoshua – his parents and [as Christians confess, the Angel Gabriel, no less] named him after the hero of the conquest of Canaan, to wit, the person known to English speakers as Joshua, a name I understand was, understandably, rather popular among Jews around that time….). It’s a teeth-grittingly awful anachronism; totally anti-historical. Because Jesus, being the synagogue-attending 1st-century Jew that he was, would never have though of himself as living in ‘Palestine’, but as living in Galilee in the land of Israel. And every year of his life from age 12 he ‘went up’ (the traditional term) to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. The Gospel writers themselves – and St Paul and St Peter in their epistles – never use the word ‘Palestine’ even *once*. In their minds there is Galilee, and Judea (the Latinised form of Yehuda) and Samaria (i.e. the latinised form of the Shomron) and Jerusalem, and Israel – “the cities of Israel”. Luke records that just before the Ascension, the disciples ask the resurrected Lord when G-d will restore the kingdom – that is, sovereignty – to Israel (that is the word they use, *Israel*). He doesn’t say No. He doesn’t say, ‘Yes, but you will have to wait nearly 2000 years” (that would have been far too discouraging). In effect, he implies that that restoration will happen in G-d’s good time, but in the meantime there is work for them to do – in Judea, and Samaria, and all the way to the ends of the earth.
I’ve encountered worse, though, then people trying to make Jesus into a ‘Palestinian’ arab. I’ve encountered a sly little commentary (drawn, I think, from some set of ecclesiastical ‘Cliff’s Notes’) on a passage of *Ezekiel* – a passage that speaks repeatedly of “the mountains of ISRAEL” – in which the author of the commentary refused to quote Ezekiel’s phrase “the mountains of Israel” even once and instead referred primly to “the mountains of the West Bank” (!!!!). Islamophilia and antisemitism together rot the brain, and no mistake.
The Irish are a bunch of forelock-tugging yes men. They will grovel to whatever Brussels wants to do. Just like they did to Rome.
@Christina McIntosh, interesting comment – the Ezekiel commentary you mention is an example of the worrying propensity amongst some Christians toward a renewed politically-correct variant of replacement theology, where not only was the Jewish people’s covenant with God abandoned but it somehow never really existed in the first instance! Of course Palaestina only came to be known as the name of the region after Rome renamed Judea following the crushing of the Bar Kokhba rebellion of the Second Century AD but to talk about “the mountains of the West Bank” is most amusing!